The commentary of the cover

I Believe in the Resurrection of the Body by Pierre-Marie Dumont

To magnify the irreplaceable role of a woman who was the apostle to the Apostles, Pope Francis wished to elevate the obligatory memorial of Saint Mary Magdalene to the status of a Feast, like the celebrations of the Apostles themselves. On the cover of your Magnificat, you can admire Giovanni Bellini’s († 1516) spiritual “portrait” of her as a young Venetian noblewoman, her gaze lost in contemplation of an otherworldly horizon, her hands crossed over her chest, guarding a heart that had become the tabernacle of fair love.

When Mary saw Jesus, she immediately loved him and expressed her love passionately, lavishly, bodily. The perfume, the kisses, the tears, the caress of her hair—all are physical, and all combine into one magnificent declaration of love. Up until the mysterious Noli me tangere (Stop holding on to me, Jn 20:17), the Word made flesh did not disdain this anointing born of a postlapsarian love. Love Incarnate does not transform human love into a purely “spiritual” love, but he rescues and sanctifies it, making it fully human the way the Father intended, before lust entered the human heart. And, more than that, Jesus divinized for ever what was created through him and for him (Col 1:16).

The Pharisee privately sneers at this woman who is mad enough to believe that a gesture of bodily love could exonerate her of her sins of the flesh. He glories in his love of God, whom he has never seen, with all his heart and soul and mind. But at heart, he detests Mary Magdalene. He and his ilk will end up detesting Jesus, too, and killing him, for the love of God. For her part, Mary Magdalene profoundly loved this man Jesus whom she does see. Which of the two truly loved God? Since the Incarnation, the only means of observing the first commandment in the Law (Mat 22:36) is by fulfilling the second. In fact, there is only one single new commandment: Love one another as I love you (Jn 15:12).

After Judeas betrayed him, Peter denied him, all his disciples left him, Mary Magdalene alone still believes in Jesus. She knows that, according to his word, after the tomb she will meet him again, alive. How she must have loved him! And he, having only just reassumed his glorious body and reascended from hell, makes himself present, above all, to her, to her before anyone else. And it is to her that he entrusts the primordial apostolate of announcing to humankind the most wonderful news ever heard: that of the resurrection of the body.

 Pierre-Marie Dumont

Saint Mary Magdalene (detail from The Virgin and Child with Saint Catherine and Saint Mary Magdalene, c. 1500), Giovanni Bellini (c. 1430–1516), Galleria dell’Accademia, Venice, Italy. © Bridgeman Images.